West End's Old Stone Tavern was granted historic status last week in a unanimous vote by Pittsburgh City Council, supported by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
The building, at 434 Greentree Rd., was nominated in February and may be the oldest commercial structure in the city. Old Stone Tavern's cornerstone is etched with the date 1756; however, the building's age has not been authenticated, and some historians believe it to be built in the 1780s. The Fort Pitt Block House in Point State Park, which was built in 1764, has long been regarded as Pittsburgh's oldest building.
"Old Stone Tavern has been standing during every single American presidency," says Michael Shealey, an architect with the Pittsburgh Housing Authority--and avid amateur historian--who drafted the historic designation nomination. Shealey says Pittsburgh has so few buildings this old due to the "Great Fire" of 1845, which wiped out much of Downtown.
Old Stone Tavern was built shortly after the American Revolution by Daniel Elliott, who served in the war. It was continuously operated as a restaurant or bar until a few years ago, when it was purchased by Lee Harris, the owner of Harris Masonry, which is adjacent to the property. Harris intended to demolish the tavern and replace it with a parking lot, but has been "so understanding and supportive and civic-minded" in the preservation efforts, says Shealey.
This historic designation means Harris is not permitted to demolish the structure or make changes to the exterior, but it does not dictate how the building should be used. However, it definitely will play a central role, Shealey insists, in the West End's current master plan process, which issued a request-for-proposal last spring. Shealey says the possibility of getting the Old Stone Tavern on the National Register of Historic Places is being investigated.
Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Michael Shealey, historian
Photograph courtesy of City of Pittsburgh, Department of City Planning